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Grace Lost Secret Auction, Company Tells Bankruptcy Judge

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Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- W.R. Grace & Co. lost an auction last month in which the specialty-chemical maker bid in secret for assets it would not publicly identify, the company told the judge overseeing its bankruptcy case.

Grace yesterday asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Judith K. Fitzgerald in Wilmington, Delaware, for permission to destroy all of the auction-related materials it had in its possession. Because the company is in bankruptcy, it was required to seek court permission to participate in the auction. The documents Grace used to win Fitzgerald’s approval to bid are sealed.

Now that the auction is over, the unidentified seller “requested that the debtors destroy all evaluation material,” Grace said in court papers filed just before midnight.

Grace is awaiting permission from higher-level courts to leave bankruptcy. Fitzgerald approved the company’s reorganization plan in January. Should it resolve all appeals and win final approvals, Grace will pay creditors in full and set up a trust to pay victims of asbestos poisoning.

Grace, based in Columbia, Maryland, was among companies that filed multibillion-dollar bankruptcies in 2000 and 2001 to limit their financial exposure to hundreds of thousands of asbestos lawsuits.

Asbestos particles can lodge deep in the lungs, causing respiratory illnesses and cancer.

While in bankruptcy, the company has bought and sold assets, each time seeking court permission.

The bankruptcy case is In re W.R. Grace, 01-1139, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at schurch3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Pickering at jpickering@bloomberg.net.

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